Parking restrictions draw owners' ire

April 20 was a typical Saturday night on Northlake Way.

Carloads of enlisted sailors fresh from the annual Submariner’s Ball made their way to Chico for a post-party event at the Horse and Cow.

Like most Saturday nights, several neighbors of the popular tavern were in their backyards, watching the comings and goings as the bar’s staff worked to squeeze every car they could into a small parking lot.

Those unable to locate a spot in past weeks would have parked on the street. That was no longer an option after the county commissioners approved an extensive no-parking buffer zone on Northlake Road and Seabeck Highway during an April 15 meeting.

“We had regular complaints from the people that live near there,” said Steve Johnson, county traffic investigator. “We kept getting complaints and kept getting complaints, so we asked them to file a petition to establish the no-parking zone.”

Horse and Cow co-owner Mike Looby is protesting the commissioners’ decision and said his business is being unfairly targeted by the county.

“Why pick an area 200 yards around our business?” Looby said. “I can see posting it if we were on a bad curve, but there isn’t one out front of here.

“A lot could have been worked out (before this happened), but the county didn’t give us enough time. We felt like we were railroaded through that whole process.”

Johnson said the overflow of traffic from the bar caused a safety hazard.

“His business is too big for the area it is at,” Johnson said. “It creates a safety problem and it’s something the business should take care of. You can’t rely on letting your patrons go and park on the road.”

Bar co-owner Laura Looby said the biggest safety issue wasn’t on-street parking, but the lack of promised streetlights along the rural road.

Mike Looby said the threat of patrons getting ticketed or towed has put a damper on his business.

“People are scared off,” he said, “and they’re going elsewhere.”

Since opening in October 2001, Looby said 50 cars have been towed in the area near his business.

Neighbors said patrons’ attitudes as they leave the bar have become another problem.

“Between 1:30-2 a.m., it’s a yelling, screaming free-for-all out there every weekend,” said neighbor Erin Lamson. She said she’s witnessed fights, public drunkenness, revving motorcycles, loud car stereos, bagpipers, trespassing and men and women urinating in public since the bar opened.

“Their attitude over there is that we’re unfriendly. All the things they’ve put us through and we’re the unfriendly ones?” Lamson said.

The Loobys, who previously operated a Horse and Cow bar in San Diego, said they are being demonized for the actions of their patrons.

“The things we are being asked to do are ridiculous,” Mike Looby said. “They are trying to make us responsible for everybody’s actions — coming and going.”

Laura Looby said they have tried to resolve their differences with the neighbors.

“It’s only a group of neighbors, not the whole neighborhood. Our lawyer came up with a neighborhood resolution where we could all sit down and work things out,” Laura Looby said. “But to our knowledge they declined it. We haven’t heard anything since it was turned over to their attorney.”

One neighbor, who identified himself only as Bob, said the Horse and Cow actually has improved the neighborhood. Before it opened in its current incarnation, drug dealers plied their trade and drug users dumped their needles in the parking lot.

“We’re not demons,” Mike Looby said. “We’re just trying to make a living and do what’s best for the community.”

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